There are two types of people, those who understand computers and those who don’t.
There are professional computer programmers who fall into the second category, and taxi drivers who fall into the first.
Given a new piece of software, or an upgrade to an old piece of software, or a new website, someone who can understand computers will be able to figure out how to use it quickly and independantly. Someone who doesn’t understand computers will either need to be shown how it works, or spend a long time figuring it out.
Presented with a new problem or task, someone who understands computers will be able to choose the best software for the job and the most efficient way to solve the problem. Someone who doesn’t understand computers will try to use what they know best even if it’s like hammering a square peg into a round hole.
A programmer who understands computers can pick up a new computer language and start using it, at least experimentally, almost immediately. A programmer who does not understand computers will need training or a big book.
So what is it that puts someone into the understanding computers category?
Is it experience? Well yes, experience is a big factor. The more time we spend around computers, the more familiar we become. Familiarity gives us confidence and reduces fear. I’ve been using computers since I was nine, and that experience has definitely been important.
Is it genetic? I think there is a genetic factor which can make us more able to understand logic and be more intuitive about certain things. I have no idea what, if any, scientific evidence there is for this. As mentioned above I got my first computer at nine. I was writing usable programs within six months, so I think I had some kind of predisposition to that kind of learning.
Is it knowledge? We need a certain amount of knowledge to get going, but I don’t think it’s very much. I don’t “know” half the stuff I do. I don’t remember everything about every language or software I’ve ever used. What’s important is that I know where to look and what to look for when I need to know something. The capacity to learn quickly, efficiently and independantly is more important than the knowledge itself.
I understand computers. I only wish I could be that intuitive when it comes to things like cooking, gardening, art and relationships!